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Deadlock as season starts

  It was that rarest of rarities, a goalless draw at Kingsmeadow… but everyone knew at the end that they’d been watching two of the main three contenders for this season’s league title after Chelsea played Manchester City on opening day. The sides cancelled each other out in a full-blooded, spiky game which saw three

It’s a thumbs-up from Kaz Carney as she warms up before wearing the captain’s armband against City

 

It was that rarest of rarities, a goalless draw at Kingsmeadow… but everyone knew at the end that they’d been watching two of the main three contenders for this season’s league title after Chelsea played Manchester City on opening day.

The sides cancelled each other out in a full-blooded, spiky game which saw three players booked and players comparing bruises as they walked off at the end.

It was the first time Kaz Carney had worn the captain’s armband for a Women’s Super League match, and she enjoyed the experience. “It was a tough game to be a captain, but there are so many leaders out there on the pitch,” she said.

With Arsenal putting down a marker earlier in the day by beating Liverpool 5-0 it already looks like being a three-horse race between the Gunners, the Blues and City.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes spoke of “tight margins” determining the outcome, and she knows that the Blues had the best chance of the game when Ji So Yun just failed to connect with a cross from her captain in the 62nd minute… a miss which saw Hayes boot an imaginary bottle in the dugout in frustration.

“Did I think that was a 1-0 game? Yes I did,” she said. “We had good possession and each of the subs that came on made an impact. The players are walking off the pitch feeling that it’s definitely two points lost. Arsenal have spent a lot of money, and they’ll be challengers.”

Carney added: “It was a good game, and we had enough chances to win. Hedvig [Lindahl] didn’t have a save to make, and I thought we did really, really well, with the fantastic subs taking us to another level.”

Those subs, Fran Kirby – back to full fitness after picking up an ankle injury in the international against Wales, and Drew Spence, lifted Chelsea’s game in the 67th minute after City had dominated the second half following the half-time introduction of their own sub, wantaway striker Nadia Nadim.

Erin Cuthbert – fresh from helping Scotland qualify for the World Cup – came on late in the game for Ji, but her best attempt in the first minute of stoppage time was held by City keeper Karen Bardsley.

Hayes stuck to four defenders at the back as City’s noisy drum-banging supporters won the early rounds of singing at Kingsmeadow, where 2,501 watched the opening fixture. Both Chelsea’s and City’s closest first-half chances came approaching the half-hour mark as first Beth England and then the ever-dangerous Nikita Parris almost broke the deadlock.

But it remained 0-0, and Chelsea now have an avalanche of matches in a short space of time which will see Hayes’ squad tested to the limit.

Fran Kirby, back after injuring her ankle, signs autographs for fans

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